*6/19 Update on the passing of Taxi Ray Kottner: I heard from his niece Maria via email, who informs us that Ray "went into cardiac arrest while sitting in his cab late Saturday night" and passed the following morning. His ashes will be interred at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, sharing a mausoleum with the remains of luminaries like Judy Garland and Joan Crawford. Writes his niece, "So maybe it's fitting that he is ending up in the same final resting place as all of these other icons of his era." Indeed. But why is VNY thus far the only one to cover the passing of this New York icon?*
We received sad news from a commenter, who writes: "Taxi Ray passed away this past Saturday, June 14, 2008--right near his beloved cab. He will be greatly missed by those who knew that beneath the gruff exterior, a wonderful, funny person existed."
I've not been able to confirm this--I found no obituary, a sad fact in itself--but if it's true, then New York has lost another of the unique, "only in New York" characters that made it the maverick, vivid, and varied city it once was. Yes, New York is losing its soul--one Ray Kottner at a time.
still from Heaven-O
I was lucky to catch a ride with Ray in 2005. Last summer, when his cab was impounded by the Taxi and Limousine Commission for being unofficial (giving free rides in exchange for tips), I wrote about that ride here. It was such a thrill to encounter Ray's cab bouncing down an avenue, and even more of a thrill if it was available. I'll always remember that sunny day in his smelly, squeaky backseat, listening to him tell stories of murder and major lawsuits. To me, that was New York.
As filmmaker Jena Starkes wrote, "A ride with Ray in his Checker is truly a life event. Ray, alas, is probably the last of his breed." And, as we all know, it's a breed that is vanishing too quickly from our streets.